Marie: ladies and gentleman, thank you very much for joining us once against on MG Live I’m Marie Griffith. The talk of the town whether you’re a landlord or a tenant is do we pay the rent and if you’re from a separated or divorced family, they’re still trying to figure out well if I can’t make the payments, what do I do. Thankfully, we have someone I can bounce those questions off of. I am so happy to introduce you to Maitre Sheri Spunt. Good day, Maitre.
Sheri: hello, how are you?
Marie: thank you praise the lord ma’am, we’re taking it a day at a time.
Sheri: that’s all we can do
Marie: ya, thank you for your time this morning because the topic and I don’t know if you heard earlier, I did refer to the statement of our deputy Prime Minister yesterday, Chrystia Freeland, who appealed to the nation for landlords to not evict tenants who cannot pay their rent this month. I don’t know. What advice ma’am, what can we do? We’re waiting for the government to come up with some kind of strategy that will defer both for the landlords and the tenants so the financial institutions don’t send legal letters to a tenant or to a landlord because he couldn’t pay his mortgage. So, I don’t know. As a lawyer, are you addressing any of these things?
Sheri: well I’ve spoken to a few clients. I think that we can say the same thing applies to everyone in every scenario. One, we have to be patient and two, everybody has to be acting in good faith now. Everyone is in this together. And because we’re in this together, there has to be a give and take on both sides. So, we have to consider the landlords perspective who has obligations, who has insurance to pay, who has mortgages to pay and so on and then we also have to consider on the other side, the tenants who are out of work, have closed up shop and so on. So how do you go about that type of situation? were under a contract, contract law. So my advice to everybody at this point in time is that there’s still a contract in place. Now, that being said, I would encourage tenants and landlords to work together, to see if they can come up with an amicable agreement whether it be reducing payments, multiple payments over a longer stretch of time, but everybody’s in the same boat. So fi everybody works together, it’ll come with that type of result and don’t forget these types of relationships aren’t going anywhere so we don’t want to end these relationships with our landlords or with our tenants. So, we all have to be acting very reasonable in the times that were in. and I think that for families obviously it’s very challenging when we’re talking about Régie du Logement and all that. Régie du Logement as of now have closed their doors. They’re taking phone calls still but they suspended tous les audiences, all hearings at this point have been suspended and they’re really only hearing urgent matters at this time. So, it’s a very delicate scenario. But what I would do is I would encourage open communication at this point and start the conversation. And then see where that goes.
Marie: you know Maitre Spunt you said something amazing. I’ve talked to a lot of people, nobody ever said that. You made reference to the relationship. And I so want to thank you. Because I’m hanging my hat on it right now. Relationships are not going to go anywhere, be patient because at the end of the day, if I evict 10 of my small businesses that can’t pay right away this week or whatever, if I refuse to talk to them and I want to play hardball, honey they’re all going to leave. And when this is over, what are you going to do with your 10 empty spaces? Okay. So, Maitre Spunt, that is beautiful, relationships aren’t going anywhere, talk amongst yourselves. What did you think of the idea of giving a break for April, May and June to both owners and those who rent so nobody is stressed, am I going to be able to make my mortgage payment, and just spread it out over like a July-June 2020 to 2021 or take those three months, add them at the end, you know maybe we could come up with a formula.
Sheri: ya again it’s something that can be talked about and worked out. What I think needs to not happen is people making their own unilateral decisions and saying well you know I heard the Régie du Logement closed right now in terms of urgencies so I’m just not going to pay. I think it has to be a collective and I think that we you do get instructions from our government that the mortgage payments are going to be deferred and so on and that nobody’s getting hurt, and again that were all in that boat together, then that’s certainly something that I think could be objectively explored but at the current time now, it’s a tricky situation. So I do hope for everyone that we are going to get more direction on that because that would help take off the pressure from everyone because as of now, we also cant consider our tenants as banks so we have to kind of alleviate the obligation from everybody to be able to try and make these types of arrangements like you’re suggesting, if there was a 3 month deferral or something like that. That can certainly be something that would be in everyone’s interest forsure.
Marie: you know, alleviate the obligations, instructions from government, you are so to the point and your words, we can understand it, and I know I’m saying like a 12 year old but we’re getting so many messages, so many differing messages, were trying to deal with this under stress and anxiety, c’est pas evident, and I love what you’re saying. Relationships are not going anywhere. Respect each other. Talk it out. Instructions from government would be fabulous on this. Alleviate the obligations. Don’t make unilateral decisions on your own
Sheri: and then our relationships too, you talked at the beginning of the segment about you know what does this mean for spousal support and child support and for those families, and I would say the same thing. Parents who are already divorced, now’s their time to step now. Now’s their time to coparent. Now’s their time to, if the relationship was broken before, now’s the time to fix it for the betterment of their children. Same thing with spousal support. I’m having clients calling me saying what do I do with my spousal support payments? What do I do about my child support payments? And again, it’s the same thing we were talking about before is that there has to be a conversation. No one can unilaterally change a judgment at this point or a contract. However, both parties can agree to something reasonable then that is something they can work from as well.
Marie: I want you to know that in both cases, what Mike FM has been saying to people, first I’ll take the rents, if you are in a situation where you can pay your rent, pay your rent. Be grateful you are in that category. Pay your rent. You don’t want it adding up anyway, you don’t want any debt. So please, and those of you that can, the luckier ones, pay your rent. Whether it’s on commercial or on your residence. That way, you’re helping those that can’t
Sheri: exactly, and that’s everybody doing their part. Because obviously our economy is going to take a huge hit but if everybody does their part and does what they can, that’s what’s going to help us
Marie: and that’s where the good faith comes in right
Sheri: exactly, 100%
Marie: Maitre Spunt, most of the situations facing, I’m sure you discuss with colleagues, lawyers, today, what would it be? How did your industry change up, if it did?
Sheri: well, I would say around March 11 is when I had made the decision at our firm to start working from home. So, we started that back in mid-March and so everybody’s working from home, on laptops, we work remotely. We try and do 2 facetime calls a day, team meetings, and even if it’s not to talk about specific files, we just do it to touch base and to keep the communication open, make everybody feel that we’re still working as a team even though were not physically together every day, because we’re a very close team, we’re 5 lawyers that work together and we work very closely together. So, I try and keep that going and also to keep up morale and also to give the lawyers a place and a platform to talk about their concerns and maybe what their clients were concerned about that day. I have to say, with respect to the courthouse, every courthouse is doing their own thing. Valleyfield was the first one to go remote where they started initiating their hearings online. Court of Appeal of Montreal did that as well pretty quickly. Our Montreal courthouse I would say took the most time and I think the reasoning for that is that it’s the biggest courthouse, it has the most volume. However, as of this past Monday is when that changed and so now, they’re restricting only to urgent urgent cases and if we have specific tings, we can email them in. but there’s limited serves available. All trials have been postponed. I had a trial that was supposed to take place April 1, 2, and 3 and that’s now postponed until December 2020.
Marie: okay here’s an example somebody wanted me to ask, I got a question. Restaurant owner, we all know the disaster they face, being pressured now because obviously he was renting, he’s getting pressure from his landlord. He’s divorced. There’s an arrangement that he’s been honoring for the last year and a half. If he can’t make those payments, can he call you to help him navigate this? He doesn’t want to go against the court order of the payments he makes. There was a time where the wife thought there was all this hidden money, like in most divorces. He’s hiding the money, whatever. The guy loves his kids. He’s going to do the best he can. He’s willing to borrow. He just wants somewhere someone to put it on record that he’s not shying away from his obligations. What do they do in that case? Can they call you?
Sheri: yes of course, we welcome those calls forsure. The thing is, it’s similar to what we were discussing before, everything within reason, but at the end of the day this is tricky for everyone. So, let’s say we were talking specifically about child support. Child support is an obligation that exists for every parent in Canada. A parent is to support their child and if their economic situation has changed, whether they’re on EI, or on a reduced salary, whatever that may be, pay what you can if there’s an agreement. You know what I’m saying? So, there has to still be that communication, that conversation. and one thing that clients can do for example, if I think about other clients in the past who have lost their job, so someone who was paying substantial child support, lost their job, what do we do now? So, we reached out to the other attorney and said, look, my client lost their job. Let’s reduce the payments for now. However, once he’s gainfully employed, he will catch up those payments. Or she will catch up those payments. So that’s also something that we can do in this particular scenario. However, I don’t want any of your listeners to take the approach that I have just given permission to stop paying child support. It’s not that at all. There needs to be a conversation. And if there’s a conversation and there’s an agreement, that’s something we can work on. But it’s a difficult time for everybody
Marie: you know I think we’re getting back to that statement you made early on about good faith. You know, if a husband stops sending the money to the wife and the wife knows or can prove that he’s just using it as an excuse. Let’s go to this horrible human being that doesn’t care and wants to use this as an excuse to get out of it, if they call you, and they can prove that, is there any court that would help enforce it? Do they hear anything at the court right now?
Sheri: so, they’re only hearing urgent cases and urgent, that’s considered basically subjective to the judge who is there that day who deems it urgent because they can’t be hearing the same volume of cases that they were hearing before. However, there are motions that are still going out, applications that parties are drafting, and that we can send to the bailiff, we send it by email for situations that are very very difficult. So, let’s say you were paying a child support of a hefty amount and now you’re not working, well that merits a change. So, if we weren’t in Covid we’d be talking about that merits a change, it’s a change of circumstance, therefore you can go back to court and ask for a modification. We’re still making those applications, we’re still doing them and we’re really reaching out to our colleagues to try and work together to avoid for example, having a teleconference with a judge and so on and see if we can file in the court record a settlement. So, we’ve actually done quite a few settlements since Covid started and I would say it’s really rewarding because people have been stepping up and acting in good faith. And I have a client of mine who’s in a very contentious relationship with the other parent and I urged him and his lawyer, let’s try and use this time for these parents to work together for the benefit of their child. And it’s been working. And I was really touched by that and it gives you motivation that people are coming together. And this is the time to put aside the differences that you had before. That’s not important now. What’s important now is your health and your family and your kids and to make sure that they’re okay because as a mother of 3 myself, this s a very hard time on the kids. You know you and I, we can speak to each other and we can verbalize our frustration and our thoughts and its difficult. But for kids who are used to such a routine and going to school and seeing their friends and playing in parks, this takes away a little bit of their innocence. Why is the park taped up with caution tape? So, we need to protect those little people and make sure that they’re doing okay through this time. And that’s why I talked to those clients and to the adverse party to work together, to help their kids out during this time.
Marie: I’m going to turn your attention to the other end of the spectrum. We had a chance to verbalize a little bit about this. There are people that are discovering that living in each other’s face in isolation right now is not necessarily bringing them together, it’s doing the opposite. Have you witnessed anything like that?
Sheri: I have and you know I read an article recently that said till Covid do we part and that no one signed up for 24 hour a day lockdown with one human so it is a challenging time, because everyone’s stressed has peaked, people have anxiety about it, people’s sleep patterns have changed, their kids are at home all day, we’ve become teachers overnight to our children, our children are climbing the walls, it’s a hard time. So, everyone’s patience are running low. Your spouse has become your gym partner, your intimate partner, your lunch partner, your water cooler break, your everything break. And then, if that person doesn’t live up to those expectations, you’re disappointed. Or then that person’s too much in your face and you’re like get out of my face. It’s a tough situation
Marie: well, I gotta tell you. I know a couple and she shared that with me, she said Marie I’m having a major problem, because my husband’s way to handle his anxiety is through intercourse at which point, I’m not there yet. The last thing on her mind is that. And that causes as you can imagine, its own friction
Sheri: I’m sure and that’s a challenging thing too right, because then you’re stuck with that person all day and it keeps going around and around. It’s something that, one of the articles I was reading was talking about almost setting quarantine guidelines. So set criteria almost what are your expectations, what do you need, how much alone time do you need, who should be cooking supper, should be divvying the tasks. And I think if you set those expectations then, maybe it’ll make things smoother around. I’ll never forget before I got married, a cousin of mine told me, set the ground rules now. So, you’re not hostile about what happens later. And that’s something I see with a lot of my clients and a lot of my files that there’s a resentment and a hostility because of the assumption of roles that were taken. And about precedents that were set. So, the fact that we don’t know when this is ending, I think that could be a really interesting exercise to do, to set your expectations and what do you need to be okay. And if parents are doing that, and they’re happier because of it, the kids in consequence will be happier because of it. it’ll then be easier to work from home day to day and once you’ve established maybe I want to eat lunch by myself in my home office. And that’s okay. We all have to adapt to this new normal. It’s not a natural thing for us
Marie: I agree 100% and if most couples are the way I was living when I was in that age group with the smaller kids, everything is so superficial, what I mean is everything is so programmed and so fast, and you run into each other in the morning, hi ya quick lets go I’m dropping off the kids and you have that routine but you never stop to take a breath and get to know each other.
Sheri: ya, you know I have a lot of couples who divorce when their kids move out the house. Once they become empty nesters. Because they don’t remember what life was like before kids. They don’t know what to do with each other, what to say to each other. Because were always in such a fast pace mode, we don’t take two seconds to breathe, and when that all stops, imagine you have all this free time but you’ve really lost sight of who your partner is. I’ve seen that a lot.
Marie: ya you do forget, you forget about how you met and how you had butterflies in your stomach and you couldn’t wait to see that he had called you. We forget all these things and we get into the rat race. And for some reason, we forget everything else except making money
Sheri: and for that, I do a lot of pre-martial consultations also, and I tell my clients beforehand, you have to make time for yourself. Because usually when I’m seeing clients, they’re younger, pre-marital and they’re going to rush into having a family and babies and I said don’t forget you started as 2, that is your foundation of your house so you have to keep that foundation together to be able to build and grow that house. So, I’m very strict for example on weekly date nights, that’s critical. Weekly date nights where you get together, you take the time and you sit down and you catch up. And that’s really important. And that’s something that has to continue whether you’re going through one child, five children, whatever it may be is to take that time to reconnect with that person so when you’re empty nested, you won’t be like those clients I described.
Marie: you know when you pick someone to marry, sometimes we take it lightly but the best advice I can give anybody, that person is like your commando unit. If you’re a navy seal and that’s your buddy. The two of you are planning your life together. You have each other’s back. When you start wondering off and you’ve lost interest, you have to work hard at creating it again. You need to work at it but that’s your best buddy, your best friend. Its who has your back, its who’s going to hold your hand. It’s who you sleep with. You swap sweat with. You have children with. You build your dreams with
Sheri: and I’ve said, and I don’t want to make this all gloom, I do also think though that this period has an opportunity to maybe repair some of the relationships that are broken or on the fence because you are together many hours a day and for some couples this might be what they needed to remember why they fell in love with that person, why they chose that person to be their partner.
Marie: actually 3 weeks ago I had a client say that to me, say Marie I was reminded why I fell in love with my wife. Isn’t that nice?
Sheri: it is! There will be some of the negative because there always are with or without Covid but I do think there will be some reconnection and I can also tell you from another perspective, I’ve spent more time with my children than I’ve ever spent since I was on a two second maternity leave. So you’re really getting to spend more time with your kids and see what they’re doing in school and seeing what they know, what they don’t know. So I think what’s important during this time also is to try and pick the little parts of it that give you happiness and to take a moment to appreciate the good things that are still surrounding us despite this very new reality that we are facing because there is good, you just have to look for it
Marie: yes, you know if you wake up in the morning and you look at these kids and you ask your partner, who are these little people? Obviously, you’ve been spending too much time away from home. So, maybe ya, now is the time to discover who are your children? What do your children think about things?
Sheri: yes, I read a post recently that said this is like the world telling us to all to go to our room. And I thought it was profound because like you’re saying, were always in robot mode, and you’re doing a thousand things in one day just to check them off the list. Its forcing us all to be at home, spend more time with our families, spend more time home and I think the only thing to do in this scenario is to embrace that. Because that’s the only way to be happy in this time I think
Marie: ladies and gentleman, I want you to embrace this young lawyer and her phone number because you will need guidance and you will need opinions when things go back to normal you know what, you might need a lawyer to open that file and to record and to guide you through getting through cooperation mode. Listen, especially if you’re divorced, separated couples, if you’re a landlord, be patient everybody. Its only April 2. Let’s see if the government will understand that both sides will be well served and equal footing, if they can issue instructions for April, May and June we can pick up everything else in July. Well see if that comes about. We know that our government is trying. But again, when the Deputy Prime Minister strongly recommends the landlords not to evict, let’s wait and see what happens, I’m sure the government will address it. Maitre Spunt, can you please give a phone number for the audience?
Sheri: it’s 438-383-5458.
Marie: mesdames et monsieurs, si vous avez des questions, des fois on veut faire tous nos étapes avec un avocat ou avocate, if that makes you feel better then hello, Maitre Spunt can be reached at 438-383-5458. It’ss a group of 5 lawyers. Whatever votre souci, whatever is making you anxious, get legal advice. Sometimes it is necessary. I love this woman. Today you were fantastic Maitre Spunt you made us all feel better.